16. Address by Vice President Mondale 1

In behalf of President Carter, I have come today to NATO Headquarters as a matter of the first priority. I have come to convey to you and the member governments of the North Atlantic alliance:

—The President’s most sincere greetings;

—His commitment, and the full commitment of the United States, to the North Atlantic alliance as a vital part of our deep and enduring relations with Canada and Western Europe; and

—His dedication to improving cooperation and consultations with our oldest friends so as to safeguard our peoples and to promote our common efforts and concerns.

The President’s conviction concerning NATO’s central role is deep rooted and firm. As he stated in his message to the NATO Ministers last month:2

Our NATO alliance lies at the heart of the partnership between North America and Western Europe. NATO is the essential instrument for enhancing our collective security. The American commitment to maintaining the NATO alliance shall be sustained and strengthened under my Administration.

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This statement of renewed American commitment comes at a time of great promise in our country. We are a young Administration—some 90 hours old. We have come to office following a long period of difficulty in the United States, and of doubt among friends about our will and steadfastness. But this has also been a time of promising change in America, just as in Europe and elsewhere in the world. As President Carter said in his inaugural address, “The world itself now is dominated by a new spirit.”3

I share his belief that in the United States “there is evident a serious and purposeful rekindling of confidence.” There is a new understanding of our society and appreciation of our recognized limits. But there is also a new faith in the strength of our democratic system of government, a new willingness to meet challenges and continuing responsibilities abroad. Some of these challenges are unfamiliar to us all—as the wind of change has transformed so much of the world. We are ready to play our role in meeting these challenges. But we believe the requirement for leadership and creativity also falls upon our friends and allies in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere.

I share the confidence of President Carter that, together, we will be equal to the tasks of the future as we have met those in the past. To this end, the United States is wholeheartedly dedicated:

—To the security, prosperity, and well-being of our people and of our allies;

—To “eternal vigilance” in preserving peace; and

—To promoting human values and human dignity for people everywhere.

In cooperation with our friends abroad, President Carter is proceeding immediately with steps to strengthen the American economy. He is proceeding with steps which will enable the United States to help meet the extraordinary energy challenge facing all our countries. He is giving priority attention to the agenda of vital economic and political issues before the industrialized nations of the West—in Europe, North America, and Japan. And President Carter is deeply conscious of the aspirations of people in the world’s developing nations and of the need for all of us to seek new and cooperative relations with these countries.

President Carter takes office at a time when we have moved from the rigid period of the cold war into a period of expanded contact and greater potential for accommodation—for mutual benefit—with potential adversaries in particular but still limited areas. It is now possible to talk, where before it was only possible to confront one another in deadly and undiminished hostility. And it is imperative that we con[Page 70]tinue this dialogue, ever seeking to expand its depth and compass, yet fully consistent with Western interests.

At the same time, the President and his Administration are vitally aware of the continuing growth in Soviet military power and the uncertainties that lie ahead with inevitable changes in Soviet leadership in the years to come. The growth of Soviet military power makes us keenly aware of the need for the NATO alliance to modernize and improve its defenses—not for the sake of military power itself but, rather, for a more fundamental reason. This reason is stated in the North Atlantic Treaty: that we are determined to safeguard the freedom, the common heritage, and the civilization of our peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty, justice, and the rule of law.

As President Carter said in his inaugural address about our own country:

We are a strong nation, and we will maintain strength so sufficient that it need not be proven in combat—a quiet strength based not merely on the size of an arsenal but on the nobility of ideas.

The Atlantic alliance has successfully withstood repeated testing for more than a quarter century. And as President Carter begins his Administration, we mark another milestone in U.S.-European relations—the 30th anniversary of the Marshall plan. Today, as we look back on how much we have done together, it is fitting to recall what Secretary of State Marshall said at Harvard in June 1947:

Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.4

And this concern with basic values still motivates us today.

Mr. Secretary General, members of the Council, 30 years ago the United States entered into a firm commitment to enduring involvement on this continent—as vital to both the United States and Europe and as reflecting shared political and human values. President Carter has asked me personally to convey to you that the American commitment remains firm and undiminished.

In support of our close ties with our NATO allies—our commitment to allied defense—President Carter is determined to maintain fully effective defense forces in Europe. As you are well aware, we are determined to reduce waste and inefficiency in the U.S. defense budget. But he has asked me to inform you that his new budget and [Page 71] these efficiencies will not result in any decrease in planned investment in NATO defense—and these plans involve some growth.

Before I left Washington, President Carter emphasized to me his deep concern about NATO’s defense. He told me that he is prepared to consider increased U.S. investment in NATO’s defense. In turn, we look to America’s allies to join with us in improving NATO’s defense forces to the limit of individual abilities, to provide a defense fully adequate to our needs. Of course, economic and social problems make a strong claim on our resources—no less so in the United States than in Europe. And in a time of détente, it is easy to lose sight of the need for adequate defense. But this need is inescapable. It demands continuing efforts in common.

The alliance as a whole must take into account the growth in Soviet military power and together agree on the appropriate response. In improving our defense forces, we must redouble our efforts to standardize weapons, rationalize our military posture, increase efficiency, and improve reinforcement capability. We must place greater emphasis on improved force readiness. And as an alliance, we cannot accept reductions in NATO defense capabilities except through negotiations with the Warsaw Pact—negotiations fully securing allied interests and leading to a more stable military balance.

Negotiations on force levels in Europe—MBFR [mutual and balanced force reductions]—must move forward with the closest attention paid to the interests of each member state and as a clear expression of common and agreed positions.

Furthermore, President Carter is committed to an early resumption of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, looking toward another step this year in the effort to end the strategic arms race with the Soviet Union. He has publicly stated that three basic principles will guide him in this effort:

—He will pursue arms control agreements in the best interests of the United States, the alliance, and world peace;

—He will insist on no less than equivalent advantage for the West in any agreement; and

—He will strengthen consultations and cooperation with America’s natural friends and allies throughout the negotiating process.

The President has asked me today to affirm again his intention to consult closely with our NATO allies before the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks are resumed. He also looks forward to working in closest cooperation with you on MBFR. And while the new Administration is undertaking a careful review of these negotiations, we anticipate no early change in U.S. proposals to our allies concerning the allied position at the force reduction talks.

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At the same time the President has asked me to express to you his desire for closest possible consultations on the implementation of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe—and on looking to the future.5 Both seeking the full implementation of the Helsinki agreement and searching for further ways to improve security and cooperation in Europe are vital to the possibilities for productive discussions at the forthcoming review conference in Belgrade.6 But both depend on Western unity and on the success of our efforts to work together—both in NATO and in other forums—in the months before Belgrade. As President Carter said in his inaugural address: “Because we are free we can never be indifferent to the fate of freedom elsewhere.”

The issues that I have discussed so far relate directly to our security in the immediate area covered by the alliance and to the future of our cooperative relations together. Yet while the NATO alliance provides each of our nations with the blessings of peace and security in the North Atlantic, tension and conflict in some other parts of the world involving economic and political as well as military issues can adversely affect our common security.

President Carter and Secretary of State Vance are turning early attention to other areas of vital concern: in the Middle East, in southern Africa, in Cyprus, and regarding both the sale of conventional arms and efforts to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. On these issues, the President looks forward to working closely with our friends and allies in Western Europe.

Mr. Secretary General, members of the council, we do not live in easy times. But they are hopeful times, as well. This is a period of historic opportunity. All Americans look to the future confident in the belief that—with vision, hard work, and firm unity of purpose—our association of free peoples will continue to provide the security and cooperation vital to us all.

This association goes beyond NATO itself. For the strength and vitality of the NATO alliance is only one task facing all of us. As we seek to promote and strengthen our security in the broadest sense, we must also use effectively those other forums we have to resolve the great economic and other issues facing our nations and peoples. And we must [Page 73] work with those countries facing economic difficulty and support nations in Europe seeking to rebuild or strengthen democratic institutions.

Together, we share many strengths. Ours is an alliance of democratic governments, of economies which have provided an unprecedented abundance, of energetic and imaginative peoples. Our countries are part of a great civilization of high moral purpose, deep human values, and a shared commitment to justice and compassion. Our societies are resilient and flexible, and thanks to NATO, we have a strong common defense.

President Carter and his Administration are dedicated not only to preserving these strengths and virtues but also to building on them in the years ahead. This is his basic message to you and to your countries. I hope my visit here will also enable me to convey to the President your thoughts and your concerns. For these will be of great value to us in Washington as we shape our own policies and programs. I look forward to hearing your comments.

Years ago, Jean Monnet, the father of Europe, spoke eloquently on the problem facing us: “Europe and America,” he said, “must acknowledge that neither of us is defending a particular country, that we are all defending our common civilization.” We have acknowledged that basic truth, and it will bind us ever closer together in the years to come.

  1. Source: Department of State Bulletin, March 7, 1977, pp. 182–185. All brackets are in the original. Mondale spoke before the North Atlantic Council (NAC) at NATO Headquarters. The Vice President traveled to Brussels (January 23–24), Bonn (January 24–26), Berlin (January 26), Rome (January 26–27), Vatican City (January 27), London (January 27–28), Paris (January 28–29), Keflavik (January 29), and Tokyo (January 30–February 1). For the President’s remarks prior to Mondale’s departure, the text of news statements and addresses, and Mondale’s remarks at a news conference following his return to Washington, see ibid., pp. 181–182, 185–197. Reports on the trip are in the Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, Special Projects, Henry Owen File, Box 29, Summit: London: VP Trip, 1–3/77 and Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Trip File, Box 31, Vice President, Europe and Japan, 1/23/77–2/1/77. Additional material is in the Minnesota Historical Society, Mondale Papers, Vice Presidential Papers, Central Files: Trips, TR 2–1, Foreign Trip Upon Taking Office: Working Visit to Western Europe and Japan, January 23, 1977–February 1, 1977. Mondale later noted that he proposed the trip to Carter in order to “introduce the CarterMondale administration to our major allies,” adding that he “met the leaders we would work with for the next several years, asked for their cooperation in coordinating a series of economic stimulus measures, told them that we hoped to operate in an atmosphere of close consultation, and got home without touching off any major international incidents.” (Mondale, The Good Fight, p. 199)
  2. For text, see Bulletin of Jan. 3, 1977, p. 9. [Footnote in the original. Kissinger delivered a message from President-elect Carter in the ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on December 9, 1976. Carter asserted: “I am convinced that NATO’s mission and the North Atlantic alliance are no less important today than when NATO was originally established. I look forward to working closely with all the governments represented at this meeting.”]
  3. See Document 15.
  4. For the text of Marshall’s June 5, 1947, address, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. III, The British Commonwealth; Europe, pp. 237–239.
  5. See footnote 7, Document 4.
  6. Reference is to the Belgrade CSCE Review Conference, scheduled to take place in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in October 1977.